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Great Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with Kids and Teens

It is February, time for Black History Month. It is a time to recognize and honor the achievements of many African-Americans throughout our history. For Jersey Family Fun, we wanted to make the connection between Black History Month and New Jersey history in an effort to help families celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with kids and teens.

When you start to look into books, museums, exhibits, and events with a focus on Black history in New Jersey you start to discover just how rich the history is, how intertwined New Jersey’s history is with the experience of African-Americans in New Jersey. While we are not experts by any means we can tell you there are lots of stories to be told about Black history in New Jersey. There are artifacts to be examined. Photos to be seen. Murals to be admired. Buildings to walk through and exhibits to learn from.

Great Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with Kids

We hope this month as you begin to look for ways to celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with your kids and teens, that you don’t stop after this month. During February, there are many Black History Month events and museums around the state with special exhibits, you’ll find them listed below.

New Jersey is also home to several museums and historical sites dedicated to preserving and retelling the stories of black Americans in New Jersey and what their experiences have been like in New Jersey. These museums and sites are open year-round so don’t stop visiting, exploring, and learning when February is over.

Continue the learning with your family by checking out books from your local library or purchasing some from Black-owned bookstores. Our book recommendations below include books about Black History in New Jersey as well as books for children and teens written by Black authors from New Jersey.

We also call out some significant African-Americans in New Jersey’s history. We give you a brief overview of why they’re significant. Your kids may decide they want to learn more about famous Black Americans from New Jersey, we give you a point to start from. 

Black History Month graphic credit Courtney Ahn Design
Black History Month graphic credit Courtney Ahn Design

If you find our guide to Great Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with Kids and Teens we hope you’ll share it with others.

Celebrate Black History Month at these Local New Jersey Events

North Jersey Black History Month events for kids and teens

Branchburg, NJ Black History Month Events

The Raritan Valley Community College will have events that are virtual and in person at their Branchburg campus that are open to the public. Face masks are required for in person events and virtual events will be held on Zoom. 

  • On February 3, 2022 there will be a virtual panel about “Black Health and Wellness: Perspective from the Past, Present and Future.” This free event will have a panel of health professionals to discuss the topic from 1 to 2:20 pm. Register for this event.  
  • On February 3, 2022 from 7 to 9 pm there will be a Jazz Trio from the Mannes School of Music at the New School in the Nash Theatre. General admission tickets are $15 and tickets are free for students and seniors. For more information visit their website, https://www.newjerseystage.com.
  • On February 5, 2022 and 12, 2022 at 3 pm in the Planetarium there will be astronomy show along with the slave song of “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” This will teach the audience how to find the Big Dipper and other stars in the sky. Tickets are $10 each and the show is recommended for ages 6 to 12. For more information visit their website, https://www.raritanval.edu.

Elizabeth, NJ Black History Month Events

  • Pop Up Next Door is making a Celebrate Black Excellence pop up shop from 11 am to 3 pm on February 12, 2022 with live music, food and vendors. There is free entry and parking as well. Learn more about this event in our event listing.

Fair Lawn, NJ Black History Month Events

Maplewood, NJ Black History Month Events

All of these events below in Maplewood are free and vaccination cards will be checked at the events. 

  • A book reading of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead will be at the Woodland Great Hall from 7 to 9 pm on February 24, 2022. The Words Bookstore will have a Black History Month display all month long with different titles displayed that are available for purchase. 
  • Cinderella, starring Brandy, will be shown at the Woodland Great Hall from 7 to 9 pm on February 26, 2022. Learn more about this movie screening in our event listing.

Montclair, NJ Black History Month Events

  • Join the Montclair Libray’s virtual event for Black History Month on February 19, 2022. Children’s performer, Fyütch, performs riveting songs about Black culture and accomplishments and shares facts about lesser-known current and historical Black figures. Learn more in our event listing for the Black History Month Performance in Montclair at Monclair Library.

Montvale, NJ Black History Month Events

New Brunswick, NJ Black History Month Events

  • There will be an art and story time from 4:30 to 6:30 pm on February 23, 2022. Dancing from the Wings will be read and there will be a dance party afterwards. Learn more about this New Brunswick Black History event on the Middlesex County website. Registration is required.  

Roseland, NJ Black History Month Events

Piscataway, NJ Black History Month Events

  • From February 2nd to May 1, 2022 there will be a traveling exhibit called “Discovering Greatness” at the East Jersey Old Town Village. There will be 90 photos showing the history of African American baseball between the 1800s and 1960s. 

West Orange, NJ Black History Month Events

  • West Orange Library will have a virtual Black History Month Celebration. Join them February 21, 2022 to hear about stories and traditions from the African diaspora and to make kente cloth. Learn more in our event listing for the Black History Month Celebration at West Orange Library.
Image that says February is Black History Month

Central Jersey Black History Month events for kids and teens

Brick, NJ Black History Month Events

  • Stop by the Brick Branch Library of the Ocean County Library System for Make and Take crafts in relation to Black History Month the first week of February. 
  • The Brick Branch Library also has a Take and Make Agamograph craft this month highlighting important black figures of the past and present. 

East Windsor, NJ Black History Month Events

Jackson, NJ Black History Month Events

Lakewood, NJ Black History Month Events

  • The Lakewood Branch Library of the Ocean County Library System will have a virtual timeline about Dr. Lena Edwards, a medical champion of Lakewood, up all month long. View it at https://padlet.com/kcancellieri/drlenaedwards
  • Additionally, the Lakewood Branch Library will have a Make and Take craft available on February 1, 2022 for ages 6 to 12 called ‘I Have A Dream’ Earth.

Lavalette, NJ Black History Month Events

Lawrenceville, NJ Black History Month Events

  • The Lawrence Branch of the Mercer County Library System will have in-person events such as an Indoor Let’s Celebrate Black Artists program on February 22nd and 28, 2022 as well as a screening of Harriet on February 24th. There will also be a virtual program on February 3, 2022 about Jacob Francis. Find the event and register ahead of time.

New Brunswick, NJ Black History Month Events

  • Virtual – Join the Black History Month Art and Story Time in New Brunswick virtually. The Civic League of Greater New Brunswick will host a reading of Dancing in the Wings written by Debbie Allen and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This book is loosely based on actress and choreographer Debbie Allen’s own experiences as a young dancer of color. After the reading, there will be dancing. Learn more in our event listing.
Image that says celebrate Black History Month Achievements Contributions throughout history

South Jersey Black History Month events for kids and teens

Camden County, NJ Black History Month Events

  • Here’s a virtual Black History Month event the kids are sure to love, teens too. Black History Month: A Celebration of Heroes is being hosted by Camden County Library System. Storm! Black Panther! The Falcon! Explore the history and origins of your favorite comic book characters and the creators who brought them to life with special guest Ryan Brady from Camden’s Comics. Get the rest of the details for the Black History Month Celebration with Camden County Library happening Febraury 7, 2022.
  • The Camden County Library System is hosting another virtual Black History Month event. This Black History Month Celebration with Camden County Library is for tweens and teens 12 years old and older. Guests will get a very basic introduction to Afrofuturism, history of and themes, along with reading, watch, and listen to lists. Learn more about this Black History Month Celebration with Camden County Library happening February 23, 2022.

Island Heights, NJ Black History Month Events

Manchester, NJ Black History Month Events

  • The Manchester Branch Library of the Ocean County Library System will have a family book discussion about A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story on February 4, 2022. The book can be picked up at this branch or accessed digitally through Hoopla. There will be a packet to pick up with discussion questions, crafts and more. This is recommended for ages 5 and up.

Manahawkin, NJ Black History Month Events

  • The Stafford Branch Library of the Ocean County Library System will have a virtual program on February 1, 2022 called “Astronaut Mae Carol Jemison” for kids 7 and older. 

My daughter has been fascinated by Mae’s story after watching a song about her in a Two of a Kind library concert. She was impressed by how she was a singer, doctor, and astronaut. To hear the song go to 51:27 in this video.

Mount Laurel, NJ Black History Month Events

  • On February 8, 2022 at 6 pm there will be a Black History Month Fashion Show in the Student Success Center of the Mount Laurel Campus of Rowan College in Burlington County. It is a free event that is open to the public. Masks are required during the show. 

Toms River, NJ Black History Month Events

Tuckerton, NJ Black History Month Events

Vineland, NJ Black History Month Events

Harriett Tubman mural kirt-morris
Photo by Kirt Morris on Unsplash

Learn about Black History in New Jersey

New Jersey Destinations rich with African American History

Cape May

Our friends from Visit New Jersey have shared with us how Cape May has played a role in New Jersey’s history

“Often celebrated for its quaint shops and idyllic coastal vibe, the town of Cape May, New Jersey, is abundantly rich in Black History. A key stop along the state’s Black Heritage Trail, which highlights sites with historical significance to American Black History, Cape May became a major Underground Railroad hub as enslaved people sought refuge.

Stephen Smith House_Credit Greater Cape May Chamber of Commerce (2)
Stephen Smith House Photo Credit Greater Cape May Chamber of Commerce

In the early 1850s, there were an estimated 100 free African Americans who owned land in the Cape May area and became instrumental in the freedom movement. As a result, visitors will find several significant buildings at the intersection of Lafayette and Franklin Streets, which was once the heart of abolitionist activism.  

Tours are available for every visitor’s preference and ability level – from an Underground Railroad Trolley Tour to the African American Heritage Walking Tour, which is available with a guide or self-guided. Highlights include a visit to the Owen Coachman House, a walk in the cemetery where the earliest freed Black settlers were buried, and numerous tales of the Black-only beaches that surrounded the town.

Children have the opportunity to discover the Underground Railroad through the Junior Ranger Activity Book, with a rewarding prize badge at the end. This activity book guides children through the experience, teaching them the significance of history and allowing them to generate thoughts of their own.

Harriet Tubman Exterior_Credit Cape May County Department of Tourism
Harriet Tubman Exterior Photo Credit Cape May County Department of Tourism

The Harriet Tubman Museum, which opened in June 2021, hosts documents and relics that inform and celebrate the efforts of the extraordinary heroine as she worked to fund anti-slavery efforts in the 1850s. With the assistance of park staff, children and teens can receive a set of Civil War to Civil Rights Trading Cards. These seven cards provide knowledge about Harriet Tubman, her life as a child, her efforts along The Underground Railroad, and more. This interactive experience entices children to further develop historical knowledge.”

New Jersey Attractions Dedicated to African American Cultural Awareness

The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum in Skillman

The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum is located at the location of the Mt. Zion AME Church in Skillman, NJ designated to show African American contributions to the Sourlands. It is currently closed but hopes to reopen in the Spring of 2022. They will be having virtual events throughout February that are listed on their site, ssaamuseum.org, such as a Gospel Music playlist, cook-along food demonstration with Joanna Canady Brown of the Gingered Peach and more. 

Watch this video from the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum

The African American Heritage Museum of South Jersey in Newtonville and Atlantic City

The African American Heritage Museum of South Jersey is located in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Newtonville, NJ and Noyes Arts Garage in Atlantic City. On February 19, 2022 they are having a reception for Camden Artist Pat Freeman from 2 to 4 pm at the Newtonville location. His art will also be displayed for the month of February. There is a requested donation of $3 for adults and $2 for students at the museum. To learn more about the museum visit their website, aahmsnj.org or click over to Eye Opening Exhibits at the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey to learn about our visit to the African American Heritage Museum of South Jersey.

African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey

Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour of African American Life in Princeton

Go on a walking tour with the Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour of African American Life in Princeton. Follow along with this website, princetonhistory.org/tour, to find out information relating to significant sites to see.

Jimmy Mack's Barber Shop part of the Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour of African American Life in Princeton.
Jimmy Mack’s Barber Shop part of the Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour of African American Life in Princeton. Photo credit Princeton History.

Underground Railroad in Allentown

Allentown, NJ has many places that were a part of the Underground Railroad. To learn more about its history visit this article.

Museums in Motion 

This is a traveling African American 3-D history museum that has virtual field trips and a virtual museum available as well. There are different themes that can be picked such as The Tuskegee Airmen, Sports Heroes and more. To book them and learn more visit their website, museumsinmotion.org

New Jersey Attractions with Black History Month exhibits

The New Jersey State Museum in Trenton

The NJ State Museum has an exhibit called “Posing Beauty in African American Culture that is open from January 29th, 2022 until May 22, 2022.

photo project titled “Black is” oladimeji-odunsi
Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

Battleship New Jersey

The Battleship New Jersey will be hosting two different events to honor Black History Month.

Evening Guided Tour: Black Sailors on the Black Dragon

Join the Curator of Collection and Exhibits for a 90-minute tour centered around the experiences of Black sailors in the Navy and how the role of minorities changed over time. This walking tour is family-friendly. Guests will visit the ship’s collection spaces to see some of the artifacts, documents, and spaces both on and off the tour route where Black sailors lived and worked. Learn more and get tickets.

Black History Month photo from the Battleship New Jersey
Photo Credit Battleship New Jersey

USS Mason Class for Group Tours

Throughout February the Battleship New Jersey is offering a free add-on class for group tours. Learn about the USS Mason, which had a predominantly African-American crew and was an example of desegregation in the Navy. Learn more on the Battleship New Jersey website.

The Morven Museum in Princeton

The Morven Museum is currently closed but it has a virtual Black History month exhibit on slavery.

As wealthy lawyers, the first two generations of Stocktons at Morven enslaved men, women, and children on site. Click through to primary resources to see how the rhetoric of revolutionary America—freedom, equality, and liberty—was inescapably intertwined with the practice of slavery.

Morven Museum & Garden

View the virtual presentation at their website, morven.org/slavery-at-morven.

Image credit: The Stockton Mansion, unknown artist. Appleton’s Journal, December 25, 1875.
Image credit: The Stockton Mansion, unknown artist. Appleton’s Journal, December 25, 1875.

Books for children and teens about Black History in New Jersey

The books in this section have been recommended to me and I look forward to reading them soon. We have included links to where these books can be purchased.

Jersey Family Fun is a participant in the Amazon Affiliates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Some links listed below in this post are affiliate links. They do not add any additional costs to the purchase price.

Children books about Black History in New Jersey

Finish the Story! Harriet Tubman’s Secret Raid by Jeffrey Bensam for kids 8 – 16 years old.

Finish the Story! Harriet Tubman’s Secret Raid blends a fast-moving, colorfully-illustrated adventure with a carefully researched, true historical backstory. The book’s 20+ interactive challenges are hard to put down and great to share with friends. Each book also connects you to free printable downloads of the challenges, puzzles, and budget sheets so that you can replay the story or make it a group or class adventure.

All-Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball by Audrey Vernick for children 4 – 7 years old.

Larry Doby was the first black baseball player in the American League. He played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League in 1942 and 1943 before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. After his time in the Navy he played again for the Newark Eagles before being recruited to play with the Cleveland Indians. Learn about him and the racism and barriers he encountered as he smashed the color barrier in American baseball.

Count Basie (American Jazz) by Joanne Mattern for children in grades 4th – 6th grade.

Count Basie (American Jazz) is a 48 biography of a famous Jazz composer written for kids ages 10-13.

Young adult books about Black History in New Jersey

Paul Robeson: No One Can Silence Me: The Life of the Legendary Artist and Activist

The inspiring life and legacy of vocal artist and civil rights icon Paul Robeson―one of the most important public figures in the twentieth century―adapted for young adults by the acclaimed Robeson biographer.

Black New Jersey recommended by Aria Miller

Written by author Graham Russell Grao, Black New Jersey talks about the differences and struggles faced by African Americans mainly situated in New Jersey. How some went from rags to riches while others fought for their spot in today’s society. The book perfectly describes how discrimination can affect lives severely.

Aria Miller, Chief Editor at My GRE Exam Preparation

5 Important New Jersey Historical Figures who are African American

  • John S. Rock was born in Salem in 1825 and was the first African American lawyer admitted into practice before the Supreme Court. He was also a teacher, doctor and a dentist. 
  • Paul Robeson was born in Princeton in 1898 and he was a performer who had many roles such as in the musical “Showboat.” He was one of the first artists who refused to do live performances to segregated audiences. 
  • Count Basie is known to be one of the greatest jazz musicians and he was born in Red Bank, NJ in 1904. 
  • Wynona Lipman was born in Georgia in 1923 and was the first African American to be elected to the State Senate in New Jersey in 1971. She made history as the longest-serving member of the State Senate. Her most passionate work related to issues impacting women, minority groups, children, and small businesses.
  • Lary Doby was born in 1923 and he became the first black baseball player in the American League.
State Sen. Wynona Lipman (D-Newark) was the first Black woman to serve in the New Jersey State Senate. (PHOTO COURTESY OF WYNONA'S HOUSE)
State Sen. Wynona Lipman (D-Newark) was the first Black woman to serve in the New Jersey State Senate. (PHOTO COURTESY OF WYNONA’S HOUSE)

5 Current Important New Jersey Figures who are African American

  • Shaquille O’Neal was born in Newark in 1972 and is known for his time playing basketball for the Lakers.
  • Derek Jeter was born in 1974 in Pequannock Township and was a five time World Series champion with the Yankees. 
  • Lauryn Hill was born in 1975 and is known to be one of the greatest rappers. 
  • Zoe Saldana was born in Passaic in 1978 and is known for her roles such as Eva in Center Stage, Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy and Nyota in Star Trek. 
  • Todd Evans is a resident of Willingboro and a poet and author. He founded the Don Evans Players and also runs open mic nights in Willingboro.

More Ways to Support Black History Month in New Jersey

Visit Black-Owned Bookstores and Community Centers in NJ

Visit The African-American Children’s Book Project

The African American Children’s Book Fair is at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on February 26, 2022 from 1 to 4 pm. There is also a preview of it on February 5, 2022 from 1 to 3 pm on Facebook Live. Books can be purchased online. 

Ways to support Black History Month in New Jersey

Shop for Books written by Black authors from New Jersey

Children’s Books written by Black authors from New Jersey

Jamal’s Busy Day by Wade Hudson

This book is a snapshot of a day in the life of Jamal. It is a good one we have used in our house to discuss daily routines with kids. There is a great activity guide that goes along with the book here which helps for a homeschool lesson.

Jamal’s Busy Day is written by Wade Hudson. He and his wife Cheryl are both writers and they also founded Just Us Books, Inc after finding a need for more books showing positive messages that were relatable for Black children.

Just Us Books, Inc is a children’s book publishing company in West Orange, NJ that has a belief that Good books make a difference. To learn more about them and to find other books that they write and publish visit their website justusbooks.com/pages/about-us.html. To purchase this book visit this page of their website, justusbooks.com/9780940975248. 

Young Adult Books written by Black authors from New Jersey

Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud 

Truly Madly Royally is a lighthearted teen romance that also delves into deeper topics. I enjoyed it since it was a very realistic romance that showed the detrimental impacts of self-doubt, living in the public eye and how people can be affected by microaggressions.

Truly Madly Royally shows some of the difficulties in interracial dating but how it can still be a positive experience where both people can learn and grow from the other’s experiences. The young female protagonist is also a good role model since she is an activist who is constantly striving to help her community.

The author, Debbie Rigaud, lived in East Orange, NJ when she was younger. You can find her other books at her website below. You can purchase Truly Madly Royally on Amazon.

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